Sports Columnist Bernie the DOLT Miklasz
The Rams defense overcame early turbulence: Steven Jackson's fumble, Marc Bulger's interception and Dane Looker's fumble.
The defense overcame too many stalled drives and Mike Martz's oddball play calls. Yo, Mike! What's up with the inside handoff to tight end Cam Cleeland down near the goal line? Let's click "delete" and send that play to the recycle bin on your computer, OK?
The defense overcame a long Arizona kickoff return. And here we go again ... if there's ever going to be a sequel to the movie "Groundhog Day," the plot will center around the Rams' special teams.
The defense overcame a restless crowd at the Edward Jones Dome, which booed Orlando Pace during the pregame introductions and booed the home team on numerous occasions during the game. Interesting. Call me nostalgic, but I remember when our town appreciated a winning football team. And now we boo a team that has won 15 consecutive regular-season home games? Wow. Let's send the Rams back to Los Angeles. Maybe we can recruit a good team to move here ... like, oh, say, the Arizona Cardinals.
The defense overcame pain. Lots of it. Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa dislocated a shoulder, had it popped back into position, strapped it in place with a harness and returned to finish the game. Cornerback Jerametrius Butler dislocated a couple of fingers, left briefly to have them twisted back into alignment, and then played on.
"Hey," Butler said, "I still had a few good fingers left."
And the Rams defense overcame the inherent pressure of protecting a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter, in a game that was sitting there, dangerously close to being stolen by the Cardinals.
On this opening day, the Rams offense could not finish drives, but the Rams defense made sure to finish off the Cardinals in a weird 17-10 victory. The Rams wasted 448 yards of offense but did not squander a spirited defensive effort.
The Rams hung tough for a victory over the underdog Cardinals, who didn't back off. In the postgame locker room, the Rams gave the game ball to defensive coordinator Larry Marmie, who made his official debut after replacing Lovie Smith. And it was special for Marmie to see his defense make so many stands against his former team, the Cardinals.
"It made me feel very good," he said. "We are new to each other, and I'm working to fit in and develop a relationship where there is confidence and trust in each other. This week, getting ready for this game, I could tell that the players were tuned in. And that's gratifying."
Rams defensive players were loyal to Smith, now the head coach in Chicago. But they've quickly bonded with the intense but personable Marmie.
"He's a lot like Lovie. He's such a good guy," defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson said. "He works so hard for us. He's the kind of man, the kind of coach, you enjoy playing for. You want to be successful for him."
Marmie served as a defensive coach or coordinator for Bill Bidwill's team for the past eight years. He was fired when the new head coach, Dennis Green, took over. Getting fired is never easy. But being freed by the Cardinals isn't a bad thing. Starting over can be beneficial. Just ask St. Louis football fans.
"The Cardinals felt it was time to make a change," Marmie. "But I was ready for a change, too."
Sunday, when the Rams "D" needed to turn Arizona away, the plays got made. The Rams offense turned the ball over on its first three possessions. Result: The Rams forced three punts. The Cardinals threatened after a 71-yard kickoff return. Result: The Rams held them to a field goal. In the final minutes of the fourth quarter, the Rams offense conked out and could not kill the clock. Arizona had three realistic chances to tie it in the fourth. Result: punt, punt, punt.
"In order to establish ourselves as a good defense, one of the trademarks, regardless of the situation, is to be ready to go out and play defense," safety Aeneas Williams said. "That's what I loved in the huddle. It didn't matter. We were ready to go out and play defense. We were ready to respond."
The Rams defense is a work in progress. The talent is too young in some spots, too thin in others. Sunday the Rams gave up 4.5 yards per rushing attempt, made Emmitt Smith look younger and quicker than he is and didn't mount a consistent pass rush.
This injured, inexperienced Arizona offense is in a stripped-down mode. The Rams defense will be tested, and possibly thrashed, by flashier offenses in coming weeks. But Marmie's defense is showing heart. And that's a start.